This year is a momentous one for students of early modern Britain. Elizabeth I’s death, four hundred years ago, ended the Tudor dynasty and brought the Stuart kings of Scotland to the English throne. The dynastic changeover inaugurated a new phase of the history of this island.
This is an ambitious and in many respects singularly brave book which adds a further dimension to the growing understanding of middle-class life that has prompted the research of increasing numbers of historians in the last decade or so.
Not so long ago, Peter the Great was commonly portrayed by historians on both sides of the Iron Curtain as a proto-Homo Sovieticus: an icon of muscular masculinity, giant in both frame and achievement. According to this tradition, it was Peter's distinctive genius to drag a backward and xenophobic Muscovy, kicking and screaming, into the rational modern world.
For a long time after 1945, as Basil Fawlty famously discovered, it was almost impossible to avoid mentioning the war.
Interest in Jack the Ripper continues to be insatiable. New books, articles and webpages on the subject appear almost weekly - a Google search on 'Jack the Ripper' yields nearly 197,000 online references with varying degrees of accuracy and seriousness, the front-runner being www.casebook.org.
Few figures in British history have such storied reputations as Elizabeth I or James VI & I. The three books reviewed here represent recent contributions to changing and evolving approaches to these rulers. While none of the authors offers a bold new interpretation, Pauline Croft most successfully draws together twenty years of revisionist scholarship to present a new composite portrait.